What’s Left: Seeking Equality

Elton Steingberg

In the White House’s promo for President Obama’s budget proposal, there are many points meant to be attractive to the common voter, such as critical investments for a stronger middle class. Meanwhile, those on the other side of the aisle similarly try to motivate the Republican base by arguing that the budget unfairly taxes people in the top brackets. To be fair, it is impossible to learn much from the partisan rancor. Both statements seemingly throw support behind a particular group. Many argue that such behavior undermines the strength of our liberal democracy. Such individuals argue that politicians must remember that growth and prosperity are products of the government’s attempt to treat everyone more or less equally under the law. They say the success of our democracy depends on treating people in such a manner. But they also state that equality in other senses is not a bad thing, and that material equality may even be pursued as a product of broader policy initiatives. In light of this common sentiment, Obama’s budget takes an arguably fair, practical approach that includes a tax structure intended to revitalize our economy.

One cannot argue against the detriments of having large material inequalities. The instability caused by having a state run by a small portion of wealthy elites has time and again led to violent upheaval. If this is the case, then one would think that certain advocates of liberty would complain less about policies that increase material equality as a byproduct. In the case of taxation, such individuals irrationally argue that progressive tax structures unfairly target the wealthy.

In reality, such tax structures are arbitrarily fair and do not necessarily treat certain groups unfairly under the law. If one were to argue that the only way to treat all taxpayers equally would be to have a flat tax, then he would be advocating a system that could still be interpreted as unfair. The wealthy individuals would still end up paying more than the impoverished. By that logic, maybe we would be better off each paying an equal sum of money to the government. However, public outcry would make it so such a policy would never have a chance of becoming law. It could be possible that what we deem fair is only normative and not inherently so. What is in fact “fair” is largely a question regarding semantics.

Perhaps, our politicians would be better served by arguing about what definitively works to increase the prosperity of the state. Debating what is pragmatic rather than arguing theory might be a better pursuit of the best and brightest our nation has to offer. In light of this fact, it is right that some from this prestigious group have chosen to advocate a progressive tax structure. This policy works to increase the rate of the exchange of money. The progressive tax structure is indeed the most pragmatic option we have to help revitalize our economy. Regardless of whether this policy proposal gets approved, voters should remain skeptical about the merits of theory and the largely meaningless exchanges we hear between our public figures.